Written by: Shannon Polk, Kudos Team Contributor
As the days get shorter this fall, many of us will find ourselves running in the dark. It’s easy to feel safe and secure on routes you’re familiar with, but you’re at greater risk of getting injured or otherwise harmed if the sun’s not up. I’ve been nearly hit by cars countless times running on city streets in the daylight and am sure that running in the dark puts me at even greater risk. Just recently, a cyclist nearly hit me from behind. Even though I did a quick check before cutting over to a sidewalk, the cyclist came out of nowhere and was dressed in all black with no reflective gear or light. Fortunately he could see me (in my neon pink shirt) and was able to avoid a crash.
In addition to cars and bicycles, you of course have to watch out for predators. As a woman, I’ve been verbally harassed on enough runs (in the daylight and in the dark) to know I should always be aware and prepared to defend myself. But regardless of your gender or confidence in being able to defend yourself, you should consider these measures to stay safe while running in the dark alone:
Run with pepper spray in your hand. If someone attacks you, it will be much easier to defend yourself if the spray is already in your hand as opposed to being strapped to a belt or inside a pocket. I run with a Sabre Red pepper gel spray that straps to my hand so I don’t have to hold on to it.
Bring your phone. Not only can you use this to call 9-1-1, but some phones have a medical ID application that lists your emergency contacts and health information.
Don’t wear headphones. I know, this is a tough one for many, but it may save your life. By not wearing headphones, you can ensure you will hear a car, bike or person approaching. It will also increase awareness of your surroundings – I feel like my vision actually improves when I don’t have headphones in.
Wear reflective clothing and a LED safety light. By wearing reflective running gear, you will be more easily seen and therefore decrease your chances of being hit or run into. If you don’t want to invest in new clothing to run in the dark, consider getting an LED armband, which is relatively inexpensive.
Run in well-lit areas or carry a flashlight. I adjust my route if I notice the lights are out along a stretch of my running path. You’re more likely to trip if you can’t see what’s beneath your feet.
Don’t run the same route at the same time every day. It’s easy to get into a routine and run the same route regularly, but this also makes it easier for predators to anticipate when and where you’ll be running.
Always be aware of your surroundings and trust your instincts. If you feel like someone or something is behind you, look back. If you see someone approaching you who looks out of place, change your direction and avoid crossing their path.